Honoring those who have fought against terror

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Is there such thing as honoring veterans too early? Some would like a memorial to honor post-9/11 combat veterans, even though service members are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Building a wall on the National Mall would require action from Congress to overturn the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, which stipulates that work cannot begin until 10 years after a war has ended. The law was enacted to prevent too many memorials from being built too quickly and to allow time for history to judge a conflict’s significance, according to The Associated Press.

But that law may be out of touch with the wars we fight today. Declaring a war is over doesn’t mean all troops come home. It doesn’t mean service members stop dying. So why wait to erect a monument?

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“A lot of these veterans were hurt physically. There are high rates of PTSD, just like among Vietnam veterans, and if we wait until the war on terror is over, they will never see it happen,” Jan Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran, said. “It’s not about the conflict. It’s about the service of the veterans and people willing to give their lives for their country.”

Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, a Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam, agrees, the AP reported.

“Whatever memorial they build, it has to be cognizant of the fact that this isn’t an end game. The war on terror is going to be an issue in the next several presidential elections, I’m afraid,” he said. “They need to build a temple, maybe a pyramid, something that will last thousands of years, or maybe just put a stake in the National Mall for future building rights.”

If there’s any hope to erect a memorial soon, work must begin now. It takes years to raise the necessary funds to construct a memorial. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Korean War Memorial was built. It was 2004 before the World War II Memorial was completed. A memorial for World War I is scheduled to be built in 2018, 100 years after the war ended.

That’s too long. While those memorials will forever honor the sacrifice of service members, they do very little for the actual service members. Many died before the memorials were completed.

A memorial for post-9/11 veterans that’s built in their lifetime would provide them a place to grieve and heal. It would help the nation grasp the enormity of those conflicts, and it would honor their sacrifice while they’re still around to receive the honor. It’s a worthy effort that deserves the attention of our nation.